The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere-Caroline P. Murphy

  • Title: The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere
  • Author: Caroline P. Murphy
  • Released: 2006-11-04
  • Language:
  • Pages: 400
  • ISBN: 0195312015
  • ISBN13: 978-0195312010
  • ASIN: 0195312015


From Publishers Weekly Felice della Rovere (1483?–1536) emerges from obscurity to rival other great Renaissance women in this rendering of her life and legacy by Renaissance art scholar Murphy (Lavinia Fontana). Offspring of what was probably a brief liaison between Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere—later Pope Julius II—and Lucrezia Normanni, daughter of an old Roman family, Felice grew up in her mother's house. Pope Julius, the great rebuilder of Rome and patron of Michelangelo, proved to be a generous father, marrying Felice into the Orsini family, which gave her social legitimacy, and providing her with the means to develop her own estates. Negotiating a complicated set of family and social relationships, Felice became a woman of stature and wealth, able to serve as a negotiator for her father in both international and Italian affairs. Felice's experience is woven into the lives of such notable figures as Catherine de Medici, Baldessar Castiglione and Michelangelo. Some of Murphy's speculations about Felice's emotions, especially in the early stages of her life, are less than convincing given the lack of evidence. Nonetheless, one feels in reading this vivid biography that one has gotten to know a woman of energy and talent who became "the most powerful woman in Rome of her day." 30 b&w illus.
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From The title hints at scandal, but this is a rather sedate account of the life and times of Felice della Rovere, daughter of Pope Julius II. There was no great shame attached to her as the illegitimate daughter of a man of the church. Instead, Julius saw her as an asset in his plans for family advancement, and his influence, combined with her arranged marriage to the head of the powerful Orsini clan, helped lay the foundations for substantial independent power and wealth, rare for a woman of her time. Widowed early, she spent the rest of her life--she died in 1536--capably managing the family properties and building a legacy for her children. The book is based on both archival and secondary sources, but there is much about Felice that is unknown, including even the year of her birth, and Murphy fills in some of the blanks with speculation. If Felice herself never quite emerges from behind the surviving letters and inventories, this biography is a vivid depiction of the society and circumstances in which she lived. Mary Ellen Quinn
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